On Errata

How much the internet has actually improved our lives is a debatable issue. It has surely provided us with a multitude of ways to waste time (which you’re certainly not doing right now, no, certainly not), and it facilitates the propagation of lies, rumors, urban myths, financial scams and lousy jokes like no other medium. One undeniable benefit of the internet, however, is quick and easy access to knitting book corrections.

There was a time when these lists of corrections were distributed via slips of paper inserted, by the publisher, into the front of second, third, and fourth printings. If you’d made the dreadful mistake of buying a first printing, you were stuck with all of the originally published mistakes. Today, all you need to do is type “corrections” and (insert book title here) into a search engine, and all of your knitting problems are solved.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m currently working on the Slouchy Cardigan from Greetings from Knit Café, and the pattern has a few errors. Like many knitters, my first reaction is annoyance. Some of the errors seem obvious, and my gut response is to wonder how they got there in the first place.

But I know better than that. Like anyone who is putting out a book, knitting designers face deadlines, and the rush to meet them can cause even the most conscientious editor to overlook mistakes. On top of that, it is highly unusual for the designer to have knit every single size of that sweater pattern that you’re following. Some errors can be caught by an editor with a calculator, but most of them only get discovered when the yarn is on the needles——in other words, they get discovered by you.

If I were very ambitious (and very stupid) I would organize a Chicago Manual of Style for knitting patterns. The lack of generally-accepted standards for knitting symbols and terminology is part of the problem——skp and s1k1psso are the same thing, after all——but I have about as much time for that project as I do for knitting all five sizes of Avast.

So, until that glorious day, we have the internet. If only I could look up errata without getting distracted by You Tube . . .

6 Comments

  • julie says:

    My goodness! The corrections are almost as lengthy as the book itself! Bless your heart.
    I KNOW I should look up corrections before I start a pattern, but being an optimist I want
    to believe that the knitting world is inherently good and perfect… surely no one would
    print an erroneous pattern, would they???
    Ah the naivete of the yarn artist.

  • Lori says:

    I’ve taken to doing a Google search on a pattern before I start it, to get a sense of how things have worked out for people who’ve actually tried them. I’ve been surprised a few times–but glad to know in advance–that things ended up a lot larger or smaller for the average knitter than the pattern indicated, even when the instructions were written fine and followed well. It’s also nice to be able to see how patterns look on regular folks rather than on knitting magazine and book models. The internet is definitely a handy knitting tool.

  • TK says:

    If you write it, I’ll proof read it for you. How much easier would it be for new knitters
    (not to mention the rest of us) to understand what the heck all those abbreviations stand for
    if they always stood for the same thing?

    Without the manual of style, I’ll allow for mistakes from new knitwear designers, but when it’s
    someone respected, who regularly works with a publisher that publishes knitting books, my
    tolerance goes out the window. I don’t even look at patterns or stitch guides by certain
    designers anymore.

  • Sean says:

    As a technical writer, I find knitting patterns to be fairly maddening in the often confusing (and as you point out, inconsistent) way they present information. Complicated sequences of steps are run together in long, hard-to-read paragraphs, making it easy to lose your place in your knitting.

    Over time I have gotten used to the way patterns work, of course, but I would love to see a sweater pattern written by someone trained to present complicated information in a clear fashion with the information/steps broken down into small, concise chunks. I can’t quite envision what such a pattern would look like, but I’ll know it when I see it. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  • anne says:

    Sometimes I think knitting patterns would be better if they shared the structure of xhtml code, with the indents and brackets and even different colored text.

  • Zaz says:

    hello,
    thank you for posting a link to the corrections’ page of the book. i’ve bought it and so far tried the shawl in it. being french, we don’t wear shawls here, it’s curiosity that drove me looking around in my books for a simple basic one, just to “see”. i made a head scarf instead with a bit larger yarn than what you name “worsted” (i used size 7 mm needles i think?! but it’s not bulky yarn, non.)
    now for the main topic of errors, i found so many in almost EVEYTHING that i knit, from stitch book or stitch on the net and sometimes i want to share my corrections and send them but i just cannot find a link, so i once emailed an editor…

    anyway, thanks again cause i may knit the slough jacket because of its “diagonality” in the front panels.

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